Inmates from the El Paso county jail zipping up dead bodies in white plastic bags and stacking them like sacks of leaves inside metal containers that have become makeshift morgues. This is Governor Greg Abbott’s legacy: too inept to respond effectively, too petty to work with others, and too weak to make hard decisions. How many of the nearly 22,000 Texans we lost this year from COVID-19 could have been saved under stronger, better leadership?
While the media latches onto the easy horse race narrative of political posturing, eating up obvious comments that he is running for re-election, Abbott’s body count continues to increase at a rate worse than most other states. COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death in Texas and its mortality rate is higher compared to other states. More than six times as many Texans have died from COVID since just March than died during the entire twenty years of the Vietnam War.
Like Donald Trump, Abbott was ill-prepared to respond to this pandemic and he has dithered and blundered all year, concerned more about his personal politics than the deaths and economic fallout hurting every Texan.
Precious Time Wasted
In March, as the nation watched the virus spread like wildfire in Europe and New York, Abbott wasted precious time. Medical professionals made it clear we were not prepared to trace and stop the spread and we were woefully short of medical supplies. The lack of testing meant that the only real way to slow the spread was to implement safety measures like strong social distancing and mask wearing. Abbott did neither. Instead he froze like a deer in headlights, scared of unhinged extremist outrage about wearing safety gear that would have slowed down the virus and done less damage to the Texas economy.
And when local leaders stepped up to implement public safety measures designed to save lives and the economy, Abbott saw their success as a political threat and a victory he could claim for himself. So, instead of working with local elected officials, he took away their power to act and undoubtedly contributed to furthering the spread of the virus, causing more deaths, and delaying our return to normalcy.
Failed to Use His Authority
Abbott refused to properly use the tools governors have at their disposal. He never called a special session of the legislature to use the full power of the state’s resources to attack the pandemic, feed hungry Texans, or help keep the fledgling economy afloat. He’s often acted alone without consulting others. Members of his own Party even sued him for lack of transparency in a $295 million government contract he unilaterally approved for a private company to run a contact tracing program that has not worked. This follows Abbott’s record of billion dollar errors in handling government contracting.
There are other tragedies left in the wake of this ineptitude, like hundreds of people dying in jail who—like indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton—were accused of a crime and awaiting trial. The way our elderly citizens in nursing homes were left vulnerable was horrifying.
Abbott’s failures continue as the virus rages. He boldly has proclaimed he won’t entertain certain safety measures that may be needed to curb rapid outbreaks. And he continues to hold hostage millions in funding that is intended to help our rural counties.
It Didn’t Have to Be This Way
Make no mistake — it didn’t have to be this way. Abbott’s decisions to go along with a president who pretended the virus didn’t exist and support dangerous health policies for political gain has caused the death of thousands of Texans. And the people have noticed. Opinion of Abbott’s handling of the virus has dropped significantly.
Dave Carney, Abbott’s chief political advisor, recently said, “We’ve been working on [Abbott’s 2022 reelection campaign] literally since the day after ‘18.” If Abbott and his team were as laser-focused on running the state as they were on Abbott’s political aspirations, more Texans would be alive today. Greg Abbott’s deadly mishandling of the deadly coronavirus should be the first reason he is unelected in 2022.